The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0460 Friday, 27 September 2013
Date: Friday, September 27, 2013
Subject: Production Questions
Charles Isherwood’s September 26, 2013, New York Times article “To Renovate or Not to Renovate?” raised a number of issues for me.
Isherwood concludes it with these questions:
“Are the most memorable Shakespeare productions you’ve seen modern or ‘classical’?”
“Do you find it jarring when Hamlet picks up an iPad?”
“What did you make of Mr. Leveaux’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’?”
I think these questions are worth exploring, and I welcome responses to them.
In the article, Ishwerwood also writes, “‘Romeo and Juliet’ is the ur-drama of young love, and it is often the first Shakespeare play kids read in high school.”
Julius Caesar was the Shakespeare play I read in the 9th grade, having to memorize “Friends, Romans, Countrymen . . .”.
I started to wonder what are we as teachers (here I am using “we” as a collective pronoun for all adults as teachers) conveying to high school students by having them read Romeo and Juliet or Julius Caesar ?
Granted Romeo and Juliet is full of memorable/quotable lines but is it ‘the ur-drama of young love”?
I recall that in 1986 when Michael Kahn came to Washington and renamed the Folger Shakespeare Company the Shakespeare Theater, the first play that he produced was Romeo and Juliet. The production had beautiful male and female leads, and Kahn invited many high school students to come and see it. He also had lectures on teen suicide. Having a really beautiful Romeo and a really beautiful Juliet unscored in this production the waste of young lives lost to teen suicide.
Recently, I confessed that I am not particularly fond of Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew. In all honesty, despite the memorable verse, I should add Romeo and Juliet. West Side Story, however, is another matter.
So do you think about these questions:
1. Are the most memorable Shakespeare productions you’ve seen modern or ‘classical’?
2. Do you find it jarring when Hamlet picks up an iPad?
3. What did you make of Mr. Leveaux’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’?
4. What are we as teachers conveying to high school students by having them read Romeo and Juliet ?
5. What are we as teachers conveying to high school students by having them read Julius Caesar ?